Paper Billionaires


Do you think Elon Musk has $260b in the bank? Because there seems to be a widespread concept that billionaires should spend their cash to fix the world at a snap of a finger. The argument being, why would anyone need any more than a few hundred millions to live a good life till the end.

The trick lies in the fact that these billionaires don’t actually have billions. What they do have are imaginary valuations of their wealth by journalists and the like.

For example, Elon Musk who seems to be the richest man in the world with net worth surpassing $260b, has the majority of his wealth in Tesla stock.

If he were to sell them all, he’d get a few billions at most. He’d be losing about half of that to the IRS though, and about half a billion of its purchasing power each year due to inflation. He’d also destroy Tesla as a business since the stock would go close to zero, and would probably have to pay for litigation, liabilities and damages to other investors. I’m not sure he’d stay a billionaire at all.

And we’re talking about the richest man in the world here. Most billionaires wouldn’t even be in the centillionaires club if they liquidated all their assets like that.

It’s all a paper pissing contest really. True wealth exists, but since it’s based on actual liquid assets, it’s very quiet and very hidden.  You’ll never hear about it on the front page of Forbes.

Could the billionaires do more to fix the world? Of course. But it’s not like they have anything close to government budgets to do it. That’s why democracy is so important. It’s the only way to fix things. I think we should all remember even though we’re not valued in billions, together we can fix much more than any billionaire alone.

By Marek Foss

I graduated Oxford University Computing Laboratory in 2008 and since then have been a full-stack lead on many projects, in different technologies. Myself, I like to code in Perl, Solidity and JavaScript, run on Debian & Nginx, design with Adobe CC & Affinity and work remotely, but overall I always do whatever gets the job done. I like to learn new things all the time!

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